Moonlight (2016) Movie Review: A Film That Will Not Have Mass Appeal

Moonlight
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In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”- Juan (imitating an Old Cuban lady) “You are the only man that’s ever touched me and the only person since then who’s ever touched me”- Chiron (as an adult)

What are your thoughts on Moonlight?

Does it deserve all the critical acclaim that it’s receiving?

Check out my video review below:

My other discussion YouTube videos can be found here

Moonlight is directed by Barry Jenkins and based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.

Moonlight tells the story of shy and socially awkward child Chiron. His gentle and sensitive nature becomes a predictable target for bullying. Chrion is befriended by crack dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Juan spends time with Chiron, advising him about life. Chiron’s mother Paula (Naomie Harris) is a crack addict who neglects her son due to her drug addiction. He finds friendship with his school mate Kevin.

The school yard bullying continues into Chiron’s teenage years, frequently picked on for his suspected homosexuality. He and Kevin have their first sexual experience together one evening at the beach. Chiron finally retaliates against a chief bully who has initiated Kevin into attacking him. Chiron is arrested for the attack.

The film forwards to Chiron as an adult (Trevante Rhodes). Still socially withdrawn and awkward, he has become a drug dealer and lives a solitary existence. He is living a similar life to Juan. Chiron has hardened physically yet he is still the same sensitive and gentle person he has always been.

Kevin(Andre Holland) contacts Chiron and apologizes for his past mistakes. Chiron decides to visit Kevin. What will happen once these two childhood friends meet again?

Barry Jenkins has done an extraordinary job with the directing and the screenplay. I was also impressed by the cinematography and the musical score. It added to the overall ambiance of the film. Performances are evenly good. Supporting performances from Ali and Harris are strong. All the actors that play Chiron through time are wonderful, especially Rhode’s adult portrayal of Chiron.

Subtlety is key in Moonlight. The film says so little but tells its audience so much. Its graceful delivery of the subtext left me inspired and moved. Jenkins explores two fascinating intertwined topics that are rarely explored in film: Machismo and homosexuality in African American male culture.

Chiron is picked on as a child and teenager because he does not fit into the expected mould of what African American males should be. This is why he adopts the stereotypical traits of the urban African American culture as an adult. The muscles and blingy accessories are an aesthetic attempt to fit into the paradigm but he is not being true to himself.

The only time he seems outwardly genuine as a person is his time on the beach with Kevin, the moment that leads to his homosexual exploration. As a child he enjoys a day at the beach with Juan. Juan holds him and teaches him how to swim.

Water becomes a motif throughout the film. It symbolizes happiness, catharsis, self awareness, and rebirth. The scene of Juan and Chiron in the ocean is stunning. It’s akin to a baptism or some spiritual initiation.

The homophobia in African American male culture is captured so well. It depicts all the hang ups and false fronts used to hide one’s true self. The combination of this and the stereotypical expectations isolate and emotionally stunt Kevin and Chiron from themselves, each other and anyone else.

The final two scenes are magnificent. The subtetly in both performances is wonderful and eventually heart breaking. The long term effects of societal cultural expectations sting. Moonlight reveals the greatest sin of all. It is not sex. It is the intimacy and tenderness between men. It’s intimacy and tenderness Kevin and Chiron have been denying themselves yet intensely craving.

The last scene is incredibly touching and the film has stayed on my mind ever since. Moonlight doesn’t hit you immediately and all at once. It starts to jab at you once you have left the cinema ,and before you know it , it has seeped into your skin and has touched your soul.

Moonlight will not appeal to the masses. They will see it as boring movie where not much happens. I pity the level of a mind that comes to that conclusion.

Check out my movie review on La La Land here

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